PEPY Literacy Camp Press Release
PEPY HOLDS KHMER LITERACY CAMP FOR PRIMARY SCHOOL STUDENTS
From September 15th-20th, PEPY, a non-governmental organization working to improve education in Cambodia, is holding its first Khmer Literacy Camp in Chanleas Dai Village, Siem Reap Province. The aim is to instill the value of reading and Khmer literacy in students through an active and engaging one week camp. PEPY is working with local Chanleas Dai teachers, as well as experienced teachers from Phnom Penh to manage the classes and activities for the 300 students involved.
Many development organizations in Cambodia focus on building structures, but PEPY’s management struggled to find literacy training initiatives to offer the teachers in Chanleas Dai. With a recognition that many students in PEPY programs were becoming literate in English but could not read and write in Khmer, organization managers decided to focus their efforts on Khmer literacy and start with a training program and camp. The main goal of the literacy camp, according to PEPY’s Managing Director Maryann Bylander, is to “inspire students to read and use the books available in the library.” The library, to which PEPY added 1,200 books last year is a valuable resource to the students, but many who are at a low reading level, are intimidated to dive in.
While most of the students are spending the week doing reading and writing activities and creating their own books, the most advanced readers are creating computer programs to help their younger peers learn to read and write Khmer. Using Scratch, an innovative MIT-developed program on low cost XO computers from the “One Laptop Per Child” initiative, these students draw and program characters, create animation and sounds, and design simple games to help teach the less advanced students.
The week prior to the camp, 32 educators participated in training seminars conducted by PEPY staff. Another goal of the camp, according to PEPY’s Country Manager Meas Vanna Aline, is to “educate and inspire teachers into developing different educational curriculum and incorporate more books in the classroom.” This camp also acts as refresher training for teachers, which will have an impact on students throughout the year. Teachers walked away from the training with new ideas and materials as well as the camaraderie of a team of educators committing together to the common goal of improving Khmer literacy education.
Teachers in rural Cambodia are paid low wages, and a lack of qualified teachers means they are responsible for teaching a large number of students. The teacher to student ratio in this area is over 1:100. School teachers in Cambodia are not paid over summer holidays, which is also the leanest time of year since it is before the harvest. Teachers at the camp receive a bonus from PEPY, which will go a long way in helping them through this tough time of year.
With over 250 students participating in the camp, it has been a great success. Students receive a t-shirt for participating and noodles everyday. Organizers are expecting this event to be held annually, as are community members.
“We expect more people to join our camp next year!” – Ek Keng, School Teacher
The PEPY Ride is a New York State registered Non-for-Profit Corporation founded in 2005 to aid rural communities in improving their own standards of living, with a focus on increased access to quality education in rural Cambodia. Sister organization, PEPY Tours, offers donors and travelers a chance to learn about Cambodia and PEPY’s programs first-hand through educational tours of Cambodia.